Monday, April 17, 2017 8 comments

My ugly mound gets a Southern Living makeover

When we bought our North Carolina mountain home in 2009, we inherited an eyesore between our driveway and the road.

We were not the original owners but we deduced a bulldozer had pushed a combination of soil from the woodland floor and builder’s sand away from the house, creating what we dubbed “the mound.”

Interestingly, the side of the mound facing the road is quite nice. It is home to a variety of native trees and wildflowers, even a flame azalea. The side facing the house is a different matter altogether, mostly junky sand and mica bits. For seven years we’ve worked with some success to give it a facelift. 

The plants arrive!

Now, the mound is about to go from blah to beautiful.

When the folks at Southern Living approached me for ideas on using Lorapetalums in my garden, I discovered two of the varieties were perfect for my landscaping challenge.

Purple Pixie® Dwarf Weeping Loropetalum grows 1-2 feet high and spreads 4-5 feet, and it loves slopes! Plus it isn’t terribly fussy about soil condition as long as it is well-drained and acidic.
Purple Pixie

In the spring, Purple Pixie sports pretty bright pink tassel-like blooms which contrast nicely with the handsome dark purple foliage. Because of the weeping habit, it is also an excellent choice for hanging baskets and containers.

To back up the weeping Purple Pixies, I chose Purple Daydream™ Dwarf Lorapetalum. In the past, gardeners may have shied away from lorapetalums because they didn’t have space for a 15-foot shrub. The new dwarfs have changed all that. Purple Daydream grows into a tidy 3’ by 4’ evergreen that is drought and deer resistant. It loves slopes, too.  (If you don’t have a slope to cover, these plants also make an attractive hedge.)

Purple Daydream also flowers in spring

Lemon Lime Nandina

For visual contrast I selected Lemon Lime Nandinas, Evercolor Everest® Carex and  ‘Real Glory’ Leucanthemums. I can testify the color of the nandinas is a dazzling lime green that will fade to light green during the summer months. The lime/purple color combination is going to be a traffic stopper.

‘Everest’ Carex has striped foliage with distinctive silvery edges – another striking contrast with the purple lorapetalums. When mature, the plants will form tidy, graceful 12-18 inch mounds. Once established, Everest will tolerate the dry conditions I sometimes experience with the mound.

Shasta daisies are always a garden favorite so I decided to have a bit of fun and add a few colorful exclamation points to my mix. ‘Real Glory’ features wide white outer petals and a frilly creamy yellow center. I can’t wait to see them bloom! They also make outstanding cut flowers and can last up to two weeks in a vase.

As of the first week of April all the plants are in place and looking right at home on the mound. 

It won't be long now until these lovely plants mature and my annoying eyesore becomes eye candy!

Sunday, April 2, 2017 5 comments

What's next for the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee?

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis)

The Rusty Patched Bumble Bee received some good news on March 21st. It became the first bee in the contiguous 48 states  named endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

It’s good news because now we can get on with combating the bad news: the fact that this bee, without protection and help, is heading for extinction.

The designation had been put on hold in January by the Trump administration as a result of complaints from a coalition of oil, real estate, farm and energy lobbies.

According to The Washington Post, The American Petroleum Institute, National Association of Home Builders, National Cotton Council of America and two other groups described the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s determination under the Obama administration as a rush to judgment executed shortly before President Trump took over.

“The implications of this hasty listing decision are difficult to overstate,” their petition says. They called it one of the most significant in decades in terms of its scope because of the bee’s enormous range — 13 states, including Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. [Article quoted was published March 21, 2017.]

Facts tell us the bee populations in nearly 90 percent of its range have disappeared over the past 20 years. Not exactly a “rush to judgment” in my humble opinion.  Scientists say this decline is the result of issues that range from pesticides and household herbicides to habitat loss and climate change.

Courtesy Xerces Society
So what are the next steps?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing a long-term recovery plan to “spur proactive conservation and focus resources on locating, protecting and restoring habitat which once stretched from South Dakota to Connecticut and two provinces in Canada.”

Now officially endangered
The Department of the Interior is sensitive to the fact that many organizations from transmission utilities to farmers to real estate developers over a broad geographic area will be affected by the endangered designation.  For example, use of certain pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals may not be allowed in some areas. They vow to “work with stakeholders to ensure collaborative conservation among landowners, farmers, industry and developers.”

In reality, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee is likely to be found in locations that cover only 0.1% of the previous range. Special permits and other regulatory measures may be required in these limited locales. The FWS will post information on their website to help determine which areas considered for development may be affected.

I will be monitoring the progress of the plan and will post updates when more information is available.

In the meantime, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has some suggestions we can all follow no matter where we live:

First, those of us in affected states need to check out this fact sheet from the Service for more information about the bee.

Then, grow flowers, including flowering trees and shrubs. Have a mix with something in bloom from early spring through fall. Include native milkweeds for monarch butterflies.

Bumble bees and many other pollinators (bees, moths and butterflies) need a safe place to build their nests and overwinter. Leave some areas of your yard unmowed in summer and unraked in fall, in your garden and flower beds leave some standing plant stems in winter. Provide a pesticide free environment.

It’s a start.  

Let’s all roll up our sleeves and do what we can to make sure the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee makes a beeline for recovery.